Snacking today is as popular as ever. The fast moving, timed crunched society we live in demands packaging be convenient for eating on the go. While there are ways to eat a meal, such as sandwich, on the go, more consumers are opting to snack throughout the day to satisfy their hunger. Moreover, consumers are becoming more health conscious. Consumers want snacks that reflect their on-the-go lifestyle that offer convenience and are healthy.
A survey done by the IFIC Foundation found that 57% of participants snack at least once per day, with 24% saying they snack multiple times per day. Another survey done in 2019 by Mintel’s Snacking Motivations and Attitudes asserts that 95% of American adults eat snacks at least once a day, while 70% of a snack more than two times a day. Additionally, salty snacks are immensely popular in the U.S. and bring in more than $27 billion in annual sales. While salty snacks are not usually considered healthy, salty snack manufacturers are aware of a consumer shift toward healthier ingredients and are shifting their products with the trend.
Cheese and salty snack manufacturers that offer pretzels, nuts, dried fuits, crackers, and dried meats have the perfect assortment of healthy, protein rich foods to capitalize on a snack-happy market. Various meat and snack companies have already capitalized by creating convenient snack packs that feature different combinations of those salty favorites. For example, Jack Links, a meat company known for their beef jerky, offers a line of meat and cheese combinations. The combinations are offered in various forms and packaging, including stick form allowing for on-the-go convenience.
Beyond simple meat and cheese combinations, cheese and snack manufacturers offer snack-sized packs that include nuts, crackers, dried fruits, granola clusters, and sometimes chocolate, along with cheese. Furthermore, when people snack, they are often looking for something that satisfies a craving and their taste buds. That’s why another big trend in the cheese industry is offering a wide variety of cheeses and flavors to consumers. A snack pack is the perfect way for snack manufacturers to appeal to cheese lovers that want variety in flavor. They can also gain consumer confidence by appropriately pairing cheeses with salty sides in the snack packs. Additionally, they appeal to the everyday snacker that is looking for something healthier and more nutrient rich than a typical bag of potato chips.
For cheese and meat manufacturers who make these snack packs, there are several packaging methods best suited for forming convenient, appealing, and effective packs. Tray sealing, thermoforming, and sometimes flow wrapping are typical methods, each offering advantages and drawback from both a consumer and manufacturers perspective.
Traysealing is when film is sealed over a preformed tray. Manufacturers can use preformed trays that have multiple sections so the appropriate combination of snacks can be put in the pack, such as Colby Jack cheese, dark chocolate, and banana chips. Tray sealing has the capability for MAP, or modified atmosphere packaging, which replaces the atmosphere inside the packaging with gases that help increase the shelf life of the product, in this case the cheese, meat, and complimentary snacks. Additionally, for manufacturers, tray sealing is fast and can seal many louge arrays per cycle. A ridged tray is beneficial for manufacturers because it can withstand the wear and tear that happens throughout the supply chain, from tr. For consumers, the rigid tray makes it easier for consumers to pick out what to eat. The only drawback is that traysealing is more expensive than flow wrapping and thermofmorming.
Thermoforming is when a tray or a cavity is formed from rollstock, then another roll of film is placed over the product and sealed with the bottom film. This creates a horizontal form, fill, and seal. If the snack pack requires it, thermoformers can form multiple cavities, which like a preformed tray, can hold the perfect combination of cheeses and snacks. The main difference between traysealing and thermoforming is that traysealing uses a preformed tray and thermoforming uses film to form its own tray. Like traysealing, thermoforming offers MAP capabilities and can form a seal quicker than flowwrapping. It offers similar consumer convenience. However, it is a more expensive option, but cheaper and more efficient than purchasing preformed trays.
For certain snack pack applications, a flow wrapping machine could work, although it presents several challenges. This involves a horizontal motion process where the product is wrapped in film resulting in crimped seals at the ends. A meat and cheese stick snack pack, or a mix of cubed meat and cheese that doesn’t require a tray is one possible application for flow wrapping. However, one challenge is that this method doesn’t support MAP packaging requiring scavenger packs to be put in the snack pack. These are packs that remove or decrease the presence of oxygen in the packaging and they are commonly found in bags of beef jerky. While a cheaper process than traysealing and thermoforming, forming and packaging the product is a slower process producing significantly less output per minute.